That is a question I have heard numerous times over the years. And I still find it difficult to answer the question.
As far as I'm concerned, if you want to be a Witch, get on and be one. There is no one to stop you and actually no definition of what it means to be a Witch.
Some years ago now a group of Witches tried to get all Witches to sign up to a sort of covenant defining what it meant to be a Witch, largely so the Witch/Wiccan community had some sort of legal protection when stories came out in the Sunday papers which were definitely NOT what Witchcraft was about. The idea failed because as soon as you start saying 'this is what Witchcraft is' you will find a whole raft of people saying 'Oh no it isn't!'
So you still need to know where to start so I will give you a list of books for a start that I consider to be helpful and give the basics of what it means to be a conventional Witch:
Eight Sabbats for Witches by Janet and Stewart Farrar
The Witches Way by Janet and Stewart Farrar
These two have been combined and are more often available as 'The Witches Bible' or 'The Witches Bible Complete' depending on the edition.
Witchcraft for Tomorrow by Doreen Valiente
Mastering Witchcraft by Paul Huson
A Book of Pagan Rituals by Ed Fitch
Buckland's Complete Book of Witchcraft by Ray Buckland
Look out for any books by the above authors as they will be practical and useable and sensible. You can order books through your local library to have a read of them, and make lots of notes.
At Raven we also publish our own Wicca Course and Advanced Wicca Course along with all sorts of fact sheets and books which you can use to become the Witch you want to be. (Just drop me a line at Raven, 17 Melton Fields, Brickyard Lane, North Ferriby, East Yorks HU14 3HE if you would like a copy of the catalogue).
You may have noticed that I said above, the books listed will help you to become a 'conventional Witch' what I mean by that is that there are basic fundamentals which you will be expected to know about as a Witch. For example the Eight Sabbats or major Witch festivals throughout the year, and ceremonies such as Calling Down the Moon and the Charge of the Goddess.
BUT these are not necessary in order to be a Witch.
However if you are going to go 'off piste' with your Witchcraft it will make learning more difficult as you will have to find out for a start what you wish to learn about.
The conventional way to become a Witch is to find a group of Witches and after making friends with them, ask for initiation into their group. You then learn from them what they wish to teach you about Witchcraft. The difficulty with this is: firstly finding any group of Witches; and then finding a group of Witches whose philosophy or way of magical working ties in with your own.
It is nice to have a group of friends to work magic with. Group magical workings can be very different from solitary practise and it is a good experience to have. But there is nothing wrong with being a Solitary Witch, and most Witches will spend at least some time (or even the majority of their time) as a Solitary. As this is the case, there is nothing wrong with learning on your own, at least that way you can learn what you want to learn, and follow whatever winding Path your inclination or magic opens for you.
Incidentally if you are stuck with your studies, or have a magical question or problem I am more than happy to try and help you out.
More next time on how you can become a Witch.